HIV FOCUS: Seniors -
Fifteen years ago, to talk about "aging with HIV" would have been a cruel joke. But now, thanks to new medications, most people with HIV can count on living into their senior years. In my work as an HIV nutritionist at the Maitri Adult Day Program in Yonkers, NY, more than 60% of our clients are now over the age of 50. We run special educational groups that cater to their nutritional, medical, and psychosocial needs.
With HIV therapy helping so many more people with HIV live into old age, it's time to look at aging with HIV from a new perspective. If your viral load is undetectable, it may be time to look beyond HIV to other factors that affect your health. Beyond the age of 50, it is more important than ever to adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity. If you smoke, it is more important than ever to stop.
If you have diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure, it is more important than ever to follow your doctor's orders and bring those conditions under control. They may represent a bigger danger than your HIV!
It's also important to understand about nutrition. Once upon a time, in the bad old days before effective HIV regimens were available, wasting was a huge problem. To combat it, we told people with HIV to eat rich fatty and sugary foods without regard to the quality of the calories. That's not the advice we give now! But, unfortunately, some people with HIV are still following those outdated recommendations. A recent study found that HIV-positive people consume more total fat and saturated fat, and less fiber, than those who are HIV-negative.
So let's be clear: Your best bet is to eat for longevity-just like everyone else. That means a heart-healthy diet low in fats (especially saturated fats), and high in fiber. That means filling your shopping cart with fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and whole grains. It means cooking with healthy olive oil or canola oil.
Here are some super foods that can help keep your body young and healthy:
If you can't get the food you need because of financial problems, health issues or being home restricted, ask your dietitian, social worker, or other healthcare professionals about local meal programs.
There are many great agencies like "Meals On Wheels" as well as HIV-specific programs like "God's Love We Deliver" in New York City. People over 50 have special requirements to promote optimal health. In addition to your regular balanced diet, you probably need an increased amount of select nutrients like calcium, fiber, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and water, compared to younger adults.
1. Calcium & Vitamin D.
Both calcium and vitamin D are important in bone health. If you do not have enough of these in your diet, the deficiency can lead to brittle bones (osteoporosis). A recent study showed that people living with HIV are more likely to get osteoporosis compared to those who are HIV-negative. People can have a hard time getting enough vitamin D in their diets since it is not naturally occurring in many foods. You can get vitamin D from the sun, but prolonged sun exposure can also lead to premature wrinkles and skin cancer. So a little fun in the sun is ok, but don't rely on it for your vitamin D needs. Consider drinking 3-4 servings of low-fat dairy products or calcium-fortified orange juice.
Fiber really is your friend. It can really help lower your risk of getting colon cancer as well as lowering your cholesterol levels. A recent study showed that HIV-positive people who ate more fiber compared to those who ate less fiber, lowered their chances of getting body-shape increases in their belly. Recommended daily amount via food and supplements is 18-25 grams for women and 25-38 grams for men.
3. Vitamin B12.
Many adults over the age of 50 have a reduced ability to absorb vitamin B12. Eating enough animal products (which are the best source of B12) may not help you. As our bodies age, we may begin to make less intrinsic factor (digestive acids) in our stomachs which in turn reduces our ability to extract vitamin B12 from the protein foods we eat. Try to get vitamin B12 from fortified foods like breakfast cereal that are not bound to protein. Recommended daily amount via food and supplements is at least 2.4 mcg.
We have a reduced sense of thirst as we mature. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids, especially in hot weather. Water is vital for keeping our skin, muscles, and all organs healthy and running normally. Lack of hydration can lead you to produce less saliva, making it difficult for you to chew dry foods, and contribute to poor oral health. Recommended daily amount is at least 3-5 glasses of
It is absolutely possible to be happy, healthy and satisfied as you move through your second half-century of life. You can continue to have good quality of life by adopting healthy habits. HIV therapies are continuing to improve, and managing HIV will only get easier in the future. Stay informed, and take good care of yourself now and for all the fantastic years to come!
How Important is Exercise?
Thousands of studies over the years have demonstrated the vital importance of exercise to human health. Now there's a new one that makes the point even more persuasively.
Researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs put 15,660 men with an average age of 60 on a treadmill to test their physical fitness. Then they ranked them into four categories: least fit, moderately fit, highly fit, and very highly fit.
In the least fit group, 44 percent had died. In the moderately fit group, 30 percent had died. In the highly fit group, 15 percent had died. In the very highly fit group, only 8 percent had died. A dramatic difference!
So when you think about a healthy lifestyle, be sure it includes regular physical activity. "A little bit of exercise goes a long way," said Peter Kokkinos, lead author of the study. "Thirty minutes a day, five days a week of brisk walking is likely to reduce the risk of mortality by 50 percent if not more."
About the author:
Alan Lee, RD, CDE, CDN, CFT has over 15 years of experience as an HIV nutritionist. He currently works at the Greyston Health Services & Maitri Adult Day Healthcare Program in Yonkers, NY. He also works as a primary care dietitian at the Special Services Center at The Family Health Center Of Harlem in East Harlem, NY. He is a nutrition consultant for the Asian & Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS (APICHA) and TOUCH, Inc in Rockland County, NY, and at the Albert Einstein College Of Medicine, Division Of Substance Abuse in the Hepatitis C Program. He is a national recognized speaker on nutrition and HIV. He can be reached at (212) 229-2298 and AlanLeeRD@yahoo.com.
Copyright 2018, Positive Health Publications, Inc.
This magazine is intended to enhance your relationship with your doctor - not replace it! Medical treatments and products should always be discussed with a licensed physician who has experience treating HIV and AIDS!